Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Recon Patrol - Skirmish Sangin AAR

Finally. A proper Skirmish Sangin game!

What sounds like a miracle did happen - earlier today I played my first proper Skirmish Sangin game.
How was it? Did I have fun?

OMG, this game is so cool, I wanna play it again!

The End.

So for those of you, who would want to read more, here is an AAR of our first Skirmish Sangin demo game, between me (as Taliban) and a friend of mine who took control of two USMC fire teams.

As this was an introductory game, I chose a scenario that seemed as the most accessible - Recon Patrol from the main rule book:

After three hours of patrolling the streets and fields surrounding the village, Bravo Section begins its return to base. It’s at this point that the Taliban springs their trap and Bravo Section is involved in a short but intense fire-fight from which its withdraws. The section retreats towards the rest of the platoon but as they are working their way through the streets get confused and take a wrong turn. The platoon finds itself outflanked, spread along one street with Taliban forces at both ends and its here the game begins.

Start of the game

The scenario has two ISAF fire-teams being outflanked by two Taliban teams, so both players have similar forces to play with. We did not roll for the Body attribute for the individual soldiers, but used the numbers from the book.

The game started with the USMC guys moving from the Humvee towards the enemy on both ends of the table. One of the soldiers immediately loaded his UGL in order to finish a whole group of insurgents at once, however he had to find them first.
Quite soon we had our first casualty, when an eager Afghan youth met his demise as he ran round the corner to shoot some Marines - he missed and was killed on the following turn.
He thought he could peek in and shoot them. They shot him.

Few turns followed when nothing happened, both sides were moving around until one of the Afghans realized he had an open shot and shot the Marine with loaded UGL from the back - serious wound and an unconscious soldier on the ground.
No cover? You will be shot, my friend!

At this moment it looked like that this will turn into a victory for Taliban, which unfortunately (for me) was not the case. The Marines started to move around and methodically reduced the threat with luck being on their side and them hitting the insurgents with at least a couple of very improvable shots (To hit rolls between 12-15).  
Surely this is a great position for the Taliban force..
Well that depends - you need to hit them, otherwise they will hit you!

One of the Afghans was surely not having the best day when in two consecutive rounds didn't manage to hit a Marine 2" away from him with no cover at all - his LMG would rip through the body armor like butter - two misses and a shot in the back of his head from another Marine was the end of this unlucky lads day.
Peekabo! (Missed him twice, was shot in the back)

As the Taliban side evaporated with only two remaining insurgents standing and only one critically wounded Marine (one of the guys managed to hit the wounded soldier one more time), this started to look like an absolute disaster, however the Marines started to be a bit too eager - and not sticking to cover resulted in another critically wounded soldier. To add insult to injury, one of the Marines, who saw his mate fell down failed his morale roll so badly, that he immediately ran for cover and a turn later deserted for good (counts as a casualty for the insurgents).

Second Marine is hit

This was the last 'hooray'moment for Taliban as the brutally outnumbered insurgents were killed one by one pretty quickly afterwards.
Only one Tango left

So this is where I share my impressions:

  • The game is so much fun! Honestly I can't recall if I ever had so much fun on a tabletop!
  • Even for a first proper game (only played one solo game before) this was an amazing, suspense experience
  • The game might look like it requires a bit  too much bookkeeping with all those counters and stuff, but honestly, this is absolutely not true - you won't even notice it once you start playing
  • Same thing with the various calculations - there's a pretty long list of modifiers for shooting and spotting, but again, you will remember these pretty soon and they are actually pretty simple and logical
  • The game has a very strong narrative element - it really is an RPG hybrid - it's not just two sides meeting on a battlefield, it really forces you to come up with a story, give your game some meaning.
  • It's fast! The phases are quick, you get a few seconds to plan your next move as your opponent activates one of his guys and then it's onto you again
  • I need to make some IDs for the figures - I have their names on their bases, but that forces you to turn them around, so need to come up with something better
  • If you're thinking about Rambo - forget it, this game is brutal and no cover means you will get shot at and most probably killed immediately - you need to be cautious and patient
  • Game time 120 minutes - even with table setup, quick rules introduction and us looking up stuff from time to time 
  • I can't wait for my next game

End game

I do plan a few more demo games as there are several guys who are interested in this - and I definitely need some more targets for my Taliban force.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Afghan buildings for Skirmish Sangin - almost done!

It took me a while, but today I was finally able to get some time into my Afghan buildings for Skirmish Sangin. I made them few months ago, but never got to actually painting them.

In the end the painting process was pretty simple - I spray painted the base coat (Montana black XX that costs 3$/can) gave it a few days to fully dry and then applied a heavy dry brush of a Nerchau Hobby Acryl Antique White (2$/59ml bottle) - I really did not want to use my Vallejos for such large surfaces.

Base coat applied 
Drybrush - in reality it's a bit brighter

The buildings turned out pretty great - I might revisit them with a light dry brush of pure white as a final highlight here and there. I am also still not entirely sure what to do about the insides - I will probably keep them in the base color for now - the light drybrush can be added pretty much anytime in the future.

I will add some minor details to the houses to liven them up a bit - doors, corrugated metal garage doors, maybe a satellite dish or two.

I've taken a similar approach to the several wall sections I made, which means I'm getting very, very close to having a properly painted 1-table material and could get some gaming done!

In other Skirmish Sangin news, I have two Humvees ready for painting and I'm also working on one AH-64 Apache and a Mil Mi-24 Hind (this will be more of a terrain piece with this helo being a long abandoned wreck).

PART TWO - More Pics

Give it a day and all my buildings have been drybrushed and tested on a 3x4 table - there will be a demo game in September and there's still lot to do terrain wise, but I'm getting there - I even painted the Humvees and LAV-R today! Please note, that the minis are still not 100% finished.

Aerial view of my table with a crash landed AH-64

USMC team Alpha

"Let them come"

Leader instructing his troops

Better shot of the building

House with a garage - this will need a metal door

One of the fearless Taliban warriors

Friday, July 24, 2015

Trumpeter 1/72 UMSC LAV-R - build log Pt.1

After some time, that I spent on terrain pieces for Frostgrave, I needed some proper modelling - so I took out that USMC LAV-R I bought for Skirmish Sangin.

The kit is pretty basic - I did not count the pieces, but I managed to put it all together in an hour or hour and a half.

The most complicated part is the undercarriage, but considering how fiddly it could be, the result is awesome. This is the highlight of this kit, everything goes very well together and holds where it should be. I really enjoyed this part of the build.

After this, the rest of the model is pretty simple - just a bunch of various details that you glue on top and sides of the vehicle. The crane is probably the weakest part - even without looking at any reference photos, you can tell it's pretty basic. But given the intended use of this vehicle and the fact I'm pretty clumsy on the tabletop battlefields, I decided to just build it as it is.

Both halves of the vehicle go well together, you than close it with a rear panel and you're done!

Really, this has been an awesome kit - pure joy of  a tiny vehicle coming together very quickly with no issues at all.

Next up is painting, although I will have to fill in two tiny holes on the crane first - Mr Surfacer will suffice here. Then it's primer time, probably a bit of pre-shading and then onto my first randez vous with NATO 3-tone scheme.

It's a shame Trumpeter has closed down its small scale armor line, as this is a kit I would like to build again in future (multiple LAV's out there), but due to it being out of production it's not as easy to get your hands on it.

Can't remember I had so much fun with a kit.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

First Frostgrave Ruin finished

A brief entry this time - the very first ruin I created for Frostgrave is finished.

As described in the previous post, I glued the two wall together using superglue, then used a bit of the DAS clay to fill in the holes between them and also to create the corner bricks - this is a nice way to add additional detail and hide some of your mistakes etc.

After that I glued the whole structure to a piece of thick plasticard slightly bigger than the house. Using PVA glue and various types of sand I created the ground and after it has all dried out, I went ahead with the base paint - a black primer spray paint followed by a black acrylic applied with a big brush to go where the spray paint didn't.
This took a bit more time than I expected and next time I will be priming the base before applying the glue and sand. It will probably be a bit messy, but the whole process with finding the spots where the white plasticard is still showing is not something I want to repeat.
First layer of Vallejo grey was applied followed by 2-3 additional ones - each a bit brighter than the previous one - you want to end up with a very light grey, otherwise the whole thing tends to look a bit too dark.
With the walls all painted, I turned to the terrain - dry brushing it with a black-brown mix, to be followed by some grey drybrushing - not as bright as the ones I used for the walls as I wanted to avoid them looking the same.

The kids love it!

Anyway, this was really fun, although I absolutely hated it after the first grey drybrushing session - it was just too dark and ugly.
But after a few days, I took my other greys (I have so many different shades of grey it's not even funny - and I still need more!), went ahead with the lighter tones and voila! the whole thing started to look good.

Check the photos and let me know what you think, like and don't like about it!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Frostgrave ruins + Modelling with air hardening clay How To

With my first Frostgrave game behind me I knew I needed some more terrain and since the game is situated in a frozen city, we're talking about ruins - lots of ruins.

There's definitely plenty of suitable terrain on the market, 4Ground just released a brand new ruins set Ruins of Daldorr but even though these are lovely, they tend to be a bit pricey + I do enjoy building terrain pieces myself. All you need is a piece of cardboard (I use 2 mm thick one), PVA glue and DAS clay (or any other similar air hardening clay)

My first mini set was a set of two broken down walls - I plan on glueing them together as they will form what is left of one house.

My first two walls for Frostgrave, all done in 90 minutes.

The 'how-to' of working with cardboard and DAS clay is pretty simple - cut the cardboard as you want your walls to look like, then take a piece of clay, take a rolling pin so you end up with a pretty thin layer of clay (1-3 mm thick). Apply PVA glue to the wall and put the clay on it - you want to press it together hard, so it stays there.
Now comes the hardest part - waiting. You need to give the clay some time to dry - the harder it is, the more precise your scribing will be. My approximate drying times are as follows:

  • For medieval/fantasy rough stone walls - around 45 minutes
  • For bricks - an hour, hour and a half

Of course anything longer than that, you end up with pretty much solid layer of clay, that requires quite some force to be scribed (nothing impossible, just my personal preference to work with clay that is still 'alive').
The drying times depend on thickness of your clay layer, temperature, current moon phase, ... so best thing to do is to try and see - when the clay is still very fresh, creating any precise shapes will be close to impossible - there will be too much of wet clay coming off - give it a few more minutes and you will be good to go for the rough fantasy/medieval stone structures.

For scribing I use a set of sculpting tools, but pretty much anything with a sharp edge will do - even a toothpick! Usually I create some sort of a grid to help me get the stones have a similar-ish size and then carry on with the most fun part - every single stone/brick needs to be scribed, usually more than once - first the rough shape of everything is scribed, then after the clay has dried a bit, I go around the second time to clean after myself, to make the edges sharper, add a detail or two here and there.

It's also pretty easy to glue another layer of clay on top of another one - just wait for the first one to dry completely, then add a new one.

An important note - you want to do this before you glue the individual walls together! You can do it all on a completed structure, it's just so much easier to do one wall at a time, not needing to worry about 'how to hold this, how do I get here'.

My next project for Frostgrave is a bigger house, or actually ruins of a bigger house and with me being currently not at home, I had to use every piece of cardboard I still had, so it wasn't a properly planned project - I just made one section of wall, then moved onto the next one.
The house is approximately 15 x 21 cm, the highest wall is close to 7 cm. I will need to glue some of the walls together and then I will move on to clay laying.

All the walls ready for stoning!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Frostgrave - first impressions

Thanks to a friend of mine who got a review copy I was able to try the new Osprey game Frostgrave before its release and boy, it is fun!

Frostgrave is a fantasy skirmish game where you lead a wizard and his warband onto a battlefield in search of treasures - only you're not alone, there's a second (or third or more) band of filthy pillagers looming the table as well.

So what do I think after my first game?

  1. The game is fun, there are no dull moments where you need to wait for your opponent - with the system of activations (wizard-wizard, apprentice-apprentice, henchmen-henchmen) you always wait just few minutes at most - just the right amount of time to think through what you want to do next.
  2. The wizard is a lame spell caster at the beginning - you need to be aware of that when selecting the spells and you better choose some easy ones for start - I decided to go with Necromancer and having an offensive spell (Bone Dart on a 8+ roll, gives +5 shoot) made quite a difference - I was able to cast it pretty much every turn, maybe even twice (Apprentice can cast the spells as well). Remember you also get experience from every successfully cast spell! 
  3. The table needs a lot of line of sight blockers - and by lot, I mean A LOT. After all, the setting is a ruined, forgotten city, so you would expect lots of walls, ruins of old abandoned buildings, maybe close to city fight with narrowish streets. This is necessary to mitigate the effect of LOS effects such as that lovely Bone dart spell of mine or the shooting henchmen.
  4. It's not about that one battle - as said earlier, the wizard starts with very limited spell casting abilities and you won't cast a lot of spells (and I'm not even talking about the really cool, difficult spells here) at first. Thus this leads you to play Frostgrave as a campaign. This means you don't need to win it all at first - get some treasures, maybe kill an enemy or two, level up and you'll see how things go the next time you meet your opponent. You roll a die for each treasure you've found to see what was inside - gold, spells or magical items
  5. Henchmen are disposable - use them, let them get killed if necessary, you can always replace them - they are here to help your wizard, so don't get too attached to them!
  6. Random encounters - this being my first game, we played without them, but I would suggest to use them if you have the minis - the way they work, they add a bit of uncertainty to the game - if I pick this treasure will a monster spawn somewhere? It might even spawn on my opponents side!
  7. The rulebook is lovely - lots of great pictures, photos and the book being a hardcover it's pretty sturdy - I'm sure this grimoire will last!
That's pretty much it, I really enjoyed it and can't wait for the game release, so I can start playing.

My wizard

The battlefield from my side of table

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

UAZ 469 Technical 1/72 MAC Model build log Pt. 2

What to do when you're not sure about your base paint?  Give it a day or two, reassess and probably repaint it!
I wasn't sure about the green from the start, but I kept on saying to myself that weathering will make it better.
And as I was done with all the weathering, the only thoughts I had were "why did I stick with this colour? It looks bad!" Yep, I pretty much hated it

It's a tiny car!

The important part here is that "day or two" - cause not everything is as bad or good as it initially seems.

After a good night's sleep, I took some more pictures, looked at them, looked again at the model and realized it looked pretty good -  the way I've planned - a battered, neglected technical.

So what did I do to the poor UAZ?

I started with a pin wash (agrax earthshade) followed by multiple dusty washes and pigments, Mig's faded olivegreen pigment and Vallejo Black Grey on a sponge for chipping.

The whole weathering part took me an hour or two - I skipped the colour fading with oil this time, mostly because I wanted it to be done fast. (another note here - it pays out not to hurry!).

So final thoughts?
Very nice little model, certainly not for an absolute beginner, but nothing crazy neither.
I will definitely build another one, this time with the grey/green camo shown on the box.

Next up is an AH-64A Apache from Italeri.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

No love for LAV-R - a Skirmish Sangin battle report & initial thoughts

This has been my first try of the Skirmish Sangin rules as well as my new gaming table (at a very early WIP stage). All the figures (current proxies before I buy a bunch of packs from Elhiem figures) are 1/72 (20mm) Zvezda snap-it modern US soldiers (tan yellow plastic) and Russians (acting as Taliban soldiers).

The LAV-R is a Trumpeter 1/72 kit straight out of the box far from a finished state - just the two halves of the vehicle put together.

A lone LAV-R has been ambushed on its way to the base and a lucky RPG shot made it un-operational.
The USMC squad has left the vehicle to locate and neutralize the attacker.

USMC crew consists of 1 veteran NCO and 3 average gunners - one with UGL, one with LMG.
The insurgents led by a Warrior Imam Adiz, are 6 men strong with one of them wielding an RPG.

Skirmish Sangin games start with the character creation and here the Marines weren't particularly lucky, resulting in a number of low rolls, which meant later activation during the round. Talibs were the opposite, with most of them rolling a pretty high score.

The character creation is an interesting aspect of the game and has a great RPG-like feel to it.

Onto Deployment. Here I decided to put all the USMC boys next to the LAV-R behind a stone fence. The game was set to start immediately after the vehicle was hit and the Marines have disembarked it.

Probably due to the aftershock from the attack on the vehicle, they did not hit the ground immediately, but kept standing ("we're in cover, that's OK") - this mistake turned out to set the tone of the whole encounter and proved to be a costly one.

Taliban forces were mostly spread among the village rooftops, with one lookout kneeling in the bushes close to the Marines, 2 shooters watching from a first floor room windows, and Adiz, the Imam, one other guy and the lucky RPG shooter on the far roof.

Goals were as follows:

USMC locate the shooter and eliminate him
Taliban - finish what NAME RPG started and kill them all!

The Taliban started the game with Adiz, the leader advising everyone to stay calm, "let them come to us".

Or that was what he had hoped for, but as the rest of his comrades were novice soldiers, they did not listen. Malik, one of the two in the first floor room, attempted to spot Ding - and succeeded on second attempt, so he tried to shoot the infidel. This was a miss, but a Morale test for Ding nevertheless ("they are shooting at me!"), Atash, the lookout, heard the shot and immediately decided to follow, "if Malik can shoot, why shouldn't I?". Due to the fact he was kneeling, he had a nice bonus to spotting and shooting. Success, Aim and Shoot - a hit resulting in 2 points of damage - a Light wound.

Unfortunately, in the next combat round, Ding failed his Morale check - resulting in him dropping prone and losing all the actions this round.

In the next round, the NCO, Deks, finally enters the battle - he spots Atash kneeling behind the bushes, returns fire and down goes the insurgent!

As one of the Talibs was shot down, all his comrades within 12" needed to pass a Morale check - one of the two in the 1st floor room, Daoud saw his dear friend Atash killed and, boy is he stressed - Morale test for him the next round!

Pretty much immediately, Clown (the Minimi Marine) gets hit by a shot from the window - this time a Medium wound (worth 5 points) and loss of conciousness - the situation starts to deteriorate pretty quickly for the Marines. This also changes the objective for the USMC - no more shooting the insurgents, they need to provide first aid to the wounded soldier.

After this frantic start, things calmed down a bit, or not. Clown is wounded and unconscious - meaning that at the end of every combat round he loses one more point of health. Well there are 3 other soldiers, who can tend to him, so that shouldn't be a problem should it? As it turned out, it was. This simply wasn't the best day for this squad and it took multiple rounds to successfully make that 40% First Aid roll (there were couple of failed Motivation rolls as well, meaning a loss of the full round). Clown ended up almost bleeding out with 11 points of damage (13 means you're dead).

Rest of the unit dropped prone and became a squad of sitting ducks - the stone wall protected them - for now.

In the village, Daoud failed his Morale test (remember, his buddy Malik just got shot in front of him) and it really shook him - if he failed the subsequent test, he would retire!

Luckily, he was able to get himself together and decided he wants to avenge his friend, so he started running towards the Marines - eye for an eye!

He wasn't the only one, pretty much everyone started to leave their positions and moved towards the enemy - if they are so foolish and instead of returning fire they focus on reviving one of their own, we have a great chance to actually make them pay big time!

Here I struggled a bit with how the evacuation works (no idea!) and in the end the Marines somehow managed to hide behind/inside the LAV with Bunny getting shot (another Light wound) in the process as the Insurgents were getting closer and closer.

This was also the moment I called it a day - I would call it a minor victory for the Insurgents - they lost one soldier, but they were able to push the assault back and inflict some serious damage.
The Marines were in the end lucky - considering the number of mistakes they've made, it could have ended much, much worse for them.

Of course the mistakes the Marines made were all mine - I'd say it is easier to play the insurgents, as you don't have to worry that much about casualties, you have more bodies... With USMC, you need to be careful, cautious and you can't just stand behind a 1m wall thinking you're well covered - you're not!

Again, this was an introductory, learning the rules game for me and I'm pretty sure I made a couple of errors in the process, but boy, I had fun!

How does Skirmish Sangin play solo?

Even with a very brief planning stage (setting the goals and objectives for both of the sides) it worked pretty well. Next time I will think about some sort of aggressive/conservative roll based on the experience level (here I used a 1d10 - for 7+ the soldier would listen to their leader and wait for the USMC to come closer, needless to say both times, they failed and went berserk). It was pretty much me as a player playing the USMC team against the "AI" Insurgents.

The rules (172 pages) will cost you £7.50 for a PDF or £22.50 for a softcover book (PDF included) and they are actually pretty simple, although it might seems there's lot of bookkeeping, that's not that the case - it's definitely something that would annoy you as you play - the game flows really well.

There is also a "try it before you buy it" introductory rulebook available with a simple scenario walkthrough available from here: http://www.radiodishdash.com/downloads

The whole systems puts a lot of focus onto the storytelling aspect and it really does have a strong RPG feel to it - something that is not limited only to the character creation, but present throughout the whole game.

I already have a couple of possible scenarios I plan on trying and the LAV-R, UAZ Technical will definitely play a part in those.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

UAZ 469 Technical 1/72 MAC Model build log Pt. 1

Soon after discovering the Skirmish Sangin ruleset for modern Afghanistan skirmish battles I knew that I needed to get myself some Technicals. Luckily I discovered this lovely little kit from MAC Model.
It's a shortrun, so you have to expect some amount of cleaning and adjusting, but honestly, the model went together pretty well, with the only issues arising when the bodywork was put together - thicker super glue is your friend here.

The critical part of construction

The whole model took me just two evening sessions to complete, so a nice little project.
As a bonus, the sprues contain two types of weaponry - the advertised KPV 14,5 mm machine gun and also a 106mm gun, so if you're building this for gaming purposes you get two options in one.

The model comes with a tiny photo-etch sheet - some minor details on the outside - here I would probably welcome the dashboard, since the plastic one is a bit rough.

The tiny car is ready for painting!

Painting started with a layer of AMMO Black Primer followed by a mix of  US Olive Drab Post WW2 (Ammo 081), Dunkelgelb aus '44 (011) and IDF Sinai Grey (066) - a very odd mixture, but the only Ammo paints I have at the moment and I was lazy to clean the airbrush for Vallejos. The idea is to have an ex-Soviet, banged up car and even now, pre-weathering I like it.

Base color applied, onto weathering!

To be continued...

Let's get this party started!

When I'm not at work or with my family, I like to build models and preferably play games with them.
It all started with Flames of War (15mm company level WW2 ), Star Wars X Wing (no modelling, just playing), then came SAGA (28mm Dark Age skirmish) and most recently Skirmish Sangin (20mm modern Afghanistan skirmish).
For most of these games I tend to build my own terrain pieces and buildings.
Apart from models and figures for my games, I do build an occasional bigger tank or two in the 1/35 scale, although these take me ages to complete.

And that's pretty much it, you can expect some build logs, WIP posts and hopefully even AARs.

Here's one of my older models, 1/100 PzKpfw III N in winter camo made with the hairspray technique.